Law Society president faces misconduct tribunal after High Court rules he has case to answer

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By CJ McKinney on

David Greene denies allegation he deliberately misled judge and says he fully expects to be cleared

The sitting president of the Law Society faces a professional misconduct investigation after the High Court revived a complaint against him by an aggrieved former client.

David Greene, a partner at Edwin Coe and Law Society head honcho for 2020/21, is accused of deliberately misleading a judge during a dispute with businessman David Davies about an unpaid bill.

The High Court decided yesterday that Greene has a case to answer, although it didn’t make any findings against him. The case will go back to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which had earlier struck out the complaint. Greene firmly denies the allegations and says he fully expects to be cleared.

It all kicked off in 2008, when Davies’s firm Eco-Power instructed Edwin Coe in a judicial review against Transport for London. They won, but didn’t pursue damages until about a year later. That led to a dispute about who exactly was liable for Edwin Coe’s fees for acting in the damages claim.

Edwin Coe had opened a new file in Davies’s name rather than the company’s. This was because, according to Greene, Eco-Power had “little or no money” and the only way he could continue to act was “on the basis that Mr Davies himself would meet our bills”. Davies disagreed that he was liable, saying that, as before, Eco-Power was the client — not him personally.

When the firm issued Davies with an invoice for £7,218.74, he refused to pay. Edwin Coe took him to the county court in 2012 and won an order for payment of the £7k plus interest and costs.

At the time, neither side told the county court about emails between Davies and Greene in the year between the judicial review and the damages claim. It was only on appeal that Davies argued that these emails proved there had been “no break in the chain of representation”: the Eco-Power case had never really ended, effectively, so there was no justification for putting him personally down as the client.

In his efforts to get the county court judgment overturned, the former client alleged that Greene “had acted dishonestly and lied to the Court”. In 2016, the same judge backed Edwin Coe again, saying that “even if these emails were before me… they would have made no difference”. He added that nothing in the emails suggested that “the evidence that Mr Greene gave me, either in writing or in the witness box, in any way shows him to be anything other than truthful”.

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Davies then complained to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, again alleging that “Mr Greene had deliberately and dishonestly lied”. The tribunal struck out the complaint in August 2019, basically because the second county court decision had cleared Greene.

That brings us to the High Court, where Davies appealed in a bid to get the complaint reinstated. Two senior judges agreed that the 2016 county count decision didn’t absolve Greene of a professional misconduct investigation. The complaint, they said, alleged “breaches of three of the SRA Principles 2011, which do not depend upon proof of dishonesty… we think that the SDT was bound to consider whether the conduct complained of breached these Principles, even if it fell short of deliberate dishonesty”.

The High Court added:

“In our judgment, it is at least arguable that the disparity between what Mr Greene said in evidence and the position revealed by the correspondence is capable of supporting a case that the former was not only misleading but deliberately so, and not such as to be explained as a product of mistaken recollection due to the passage of time.”

The judges stressed that “we are not expressing any concluded view that Mr Greene has lied or behaved dishonestly or in breach of professional standards. He has not yet responded to the merits of the complaint. It will be for the SDT to consider whether such a case is made out having heard all the evidence”.

In a statement released through his firm, Greene said “I absolutely deny the allegations of Mr Davies and after I am given the opportunity to put in evidence, I fully expect the Tribunal to dismiss these claims as all courts and the Tribunal itself have done previously”.

A spokesperson for Edwin Coe LLP said that “the underlying events happened some ten years ago. Since then Mr Davies’ allegations have been considered both by the court in civil proceedings, by the SRA and by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. All have found nothing in Mr Davies’ allegations”.

The firm added that it’s seeking permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling. The Law Society referred us to the statements above but issued no separate comment.

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